Mo's magic act in 10th lifts Yanks in Arizona
Bases-loaded, no-out jam escaped after Granderson's homer
ARIZONA -- These are the situations that cemented Mariano Rivera's legend and legacy, those moments of impossible greatness where he has been challenged to escape stacked situations armed with just one devastating weapon.
As the mound he was standing on could attest, Rivera is not always successful, but he never blinks. And nine years later, on the site of his highest-profile disappointment, Rivera walked off a winner by pinning the bases loaded and putting the final artistic dash on the Yankees' 6-5, 10-inning victory over the D-backs on Wednesday.
"You have to be confident that you can make your pitches," Rivera shrugged later in the visitors' clubhouse at Chase Field, a place where he promises his thoughts never flash back to. "Those are the moments where you have to show your character and be patient and make your pitches."
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Rivera may not permit himself to think about that lost Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, but the D-backs have had fun taunting the Yankees all week, even flashing Luis Gonzalez's face across the huge center-field screen during an all-night Wednesday affair that started sluggishly and finished splendidly.
So it was no surprise that even Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he started wondering about 2001. He couldn't help it, not when Rivera -- provided with a lead courtesy of Curtis Granderson's solo home run in the 10th -- allowed a broken-bat hit to Stephen Drew and left a pitch up that Justin Upton laced for a double into the left-field corner.
An intentional walk loaded the bases to put the tying run 90 feet away. Rivera said he searched within himself and asked for "a little help from the Lord" to get his job done, telling himself that there was no need to try to get three outs with one pitch.
Rivera put his legendary cutter to work, getting Chris Young to foul out behind the plate, and at third base, Alex Rodriguez started thinking about possible escapes instead of a tied game.
"There isn't a human on the planet who can get out of that jam like Mo," Rodriguez said. "Once he gets one out, then you're like, 'Well, now a double play gets us out of it.' I thought the biggest out was the first one."
Rodriguez would snare the second out as Adam LaRoche's weak pop landed in his glove, taking away an opportunity for the first baseman to improve upon a five-RBI night. Now it was up to Mark Reynolds, and having come this far, there was only one way the Yankees believed it could end -- with Reynolds flailing at a 93-mph cutter for strike three.
"Nothing is that easy, but you just trust," Rivera said. "You've got to make your pitches. You've got them still by one run, so you still have a chance."
"That's why he's the best ever," said D-backs manager A.J. Hinch. "He's the best ever at his craft. You try to scratch and claw one [run] any way you can. If you get greedy and get two, we're celebrating."
Rivera was called upon for six outs -- his first such assignment this year -- after A-Rod tied the game with a sacrifice fly off an ineffective Aaron Heilman in the ninth. It became a win situation when Granderson took Carlos Rosa over the right-field wall for his seventh homer, opening bonus baseball in the desert.
"It was a splitter or changeup, and somehow I was able to go connect with it," Granderson said. "It hit the big part of the bat, and I was able to get it out of the ballpark. Any way to help this team out, I'll take it any time."
As satisfying as the ending might have seemed, the Yankees weren't at all elated with the opening acts in a game that seemed unconventional by all standards, not to mention wild -- 19 walks were issued in the 10 innings, 13 of them to Yankees hitters.
Girardi said that the Yankees were "fortunate to win" despite their numerous mistakes.
LaRoche's fifth career five-RBI game was secured softly in the sixth inning as Young walked, moved up on Damaso Marte's balk and a wild pitch and then slid home safely on a LaRoche dribbler that went scarcely 30 feet in front of the mound.
LaRoche drove in the first four Arizona runs off Javier Vazquez, lacing a two-run single to right field in the first inning -- a play that ended the frame as Nick Swisher threw out Miguel Montero advancing to third base -- and another two-run single in the fourth inning, following hits to Montero and Young.
Dontrelle Willis started for Arizona and walked seven, though the Yankees were able to manage just two runs. Swisher notched an RBI single in the first, which ended with Mark Teixeira caught stealing as Robinson Cano struck out on a botched hit-and-run. Rodriguez was issued a bases-loaded walk on Willis' final pitch in the third inning.
But Arizona State University alum Colin Curtis tied the game in the sixth as a pinch-hitter with an RBI single as the Yankees chased reliever Blaine Boyer, who also allowed a run-scoring groundout to Brett Gardner in the inning.
"Obviously, we're not happy with the way we played today," Rodriguez said. "We know we have to do a lot of things better. We'll take the win, but we really don't feel good about it. In order for us to do what we need to do late in October, we're going to have to clean it up a little bit."
Vazquez scattered six hits in five innings before leaving for a pinch-hitter, and while he acknowledged that the game "started out really rough" for both him and Willis, the right-hander was pleased that he battled to keep the Yankees in the game long enough to see Rivera stride in to save the day.
"Only he can get out of that, believe me," Vazquez said. "We were talking about it. He's like Iceman out there. He really is unbelievable. What he does and he's so capable of doing every time out, we have so much confidence. He was really cool."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.